The Week’s Trends in Education and Technology (February 9-14)
[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education.]
Oral Communication remains the skill group with the biggest shortage in nearly every city across the country.
Things That Caught My Attention
There was more somber education news out of Oklahoma this week, as a new report from the Oklahoma State Department of Education report revealed that 30,000 teachers have left the profession in the last six years. That’s approximately 10% of the teaching workforce.
Of course, that’s far from the only challenge facing our public school systems these days. Another area of concern is the lack of resources available to many of our rural schools and their students. Rural districts can lack quality internet speed aren’t able to offer college-prep courses. This is an area of special focus for TEL Library. On Tuesday, I wrote about the need or well-designed dual-enrollment programs for rural high school, and today we announced our initiative to provide affordable, college-credit courses for rural students throughout Oklahoma.
This brings to mind the educational system in Finland, where equal access to education is a constitutional right. Another important principle in Finland’s system is that each student should be allowed to choose the learning path and outcome that works best for them.
In Higher Ed side of things, Revealing Institutional Risks and Challenges (RISC), has released a report on the barriers to student success in community colleges. According to the report:
Community college students face a dizzying array of demands outside of college that affect their success. Among the top ten challenges most frequently cited, personal issues, such as balancing work and school (first most frequently cited), paying expenses (second), meeting demands of family and friends (third), and health and disabilities (eighth), all present obstacles for many students.
As I wrote earlier this week, I believe one key solution to the challenges highlighted in this report is to shift the first year of college study into high schools, primarily through well-designed dual-enrollment options.
This week also saw all-too-familiar news of higher education institutions closing or transitioning to new models in order to survive. The 112-year-old Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC) announced last week that it will close following commencement on May 19, 2019, following years of financial instability. Unfortunately, the OCAC closing is part o a trend among art colleges who are struggling with minimal endowments and declining enrollments. Also in Oregon, Linfield College served notice that it is planning to cut faculty members as it rethinks how it does business in a time of declining enrollment. Finally, on the for-profit side, I see that Bridgepoint Education is rethinking its business models as it looks to find a path to growth after several years of decline.
In more positive higher education news, the National Clearing House Research Center released its seventh annual report on national college completion rates, revealing that “completion rate grew across the board for both two-year and four-year institutions combined, regardless of student gender, race and ethnicity, or age.“
I’m also encouraged by the ongoing dialogue about how we should evaluate student performance. For some examples of these discussions, see Laura Gibbs’ latest post on un-grading, and Joe Feldman’s two-part series on equitable grading (here and here). As I pointed out in yesterday’s Daily Take on our blog when it comes to grading, we need to think about the types of performance evaluation students will encounter in their professional careers. At TEL, we have identified four essential types of performance evaluation in business — Expert Evaluation, Peer Evaluation, Public Evaluation, and Self-Evaluation — and are working to integrate them into our courses.
Workforce Readiness and Education
On the workforce readiness and job skills front, we hear continued concern about the skills gap in America. The recent SHRM 2019 State of the Workplace Report echoes the findings of LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs Report, saying that a major challenge in the lack of ‘“soft skills’ needed regardless of industry or job type, including problem solving, critical thinking, innovation and creativity; the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity; and communication skills.” As I discuss in today’s Daily Take, we should be working to integrate and contextualize these skills within each of our general education courses.
This Business Insider article suggests that one solution to the skills gap is to increase investment in vocational “alternatives to four-year college degrees for a significant slice of the population.” Of course, one of the most talked about challenges in the future of jobs is the threat of automation. In this article, Byron Reese responds to automation concerns by reminding us that technology innovations do not generally require low-skilled workers to suddenly take on high-skilled positions.
The question is not whether those in the lowest-skilled jobs can do the high-skilled work. Instead, the question is, “Can everyone do a job just a little harder than the job they have today?” If so, and I believe very deeply that this is the case, then every time technology creates a new job “at the top,” everyone gets a promotion.
As always, there were lots of shiny objects to catch my eye this week. Here are three that point to trends that will shape our approaches to learning in some way.
First up, and continuing with our them of potential workforce disruptions, former Goole President Kai-Fu Lee spoke about the risk AI poses to the current workforce, especially jobs that are routine. “As long as a job is routine, can be defined by an objective function and is quantitative in nature, over time, it will eventually get displaced,” he said.
Speaking of AI, this week’s score was Humans 1 and AI 0. IBM’s debate AI, Miss Debater, was defeated in a live debate by champion debater Harish Natarajan. In the lead-up to Monday’s bout, Natarajan suggested that debating may prove a harder battleground for AI than Go and video games. “But he also conceded that ‘there will come a point soon where AI will be better than humans at all three.’”
Finally, I think it’s important that the wearables market is expanding rapidly (much faster than I had predicted). The latest figures from NPD show that 16% of U.S. adults now own a smartwatch. The increasing integration of information and communication into wearable devices will likely have an impact on school policies but, on the brighter side, it also portends new avenues for making learning a more ubiquitous throughout students’ lives.
Rob Reynolds, Ph.D.
Executive Director, TEL Library
Research Articles and Posts for the Week
TEL Library Posts You May Have Missed
Rearranging the Furniture: A Parable (Parables on Learning)
The Time Is Right for Dual-Enrollment in Rural High Schools (Daily Takes)
Dual-Enrollment as a Solution to Student Success in College (Daily Takes)